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London Calling

Evan Parker

By Published: March 9, 2003
One of the many benefits of being a music fan in London is the opportunity to see Evan Parker perform regularly. Parker is one of the giants of improvised music, with a career that stretches back to the dawn of the music in the mid sixties. But he is always pushing forward, and appears in a wide variety of contexts from solo performances up to large ensembles such as the London Improvisers Orchestra and the Dedication Orchestra. In January, he was at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of the Spring Heel Jack national tour that also featured Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Han Bennink and Jason Pearce. On February 19th, Parker appeared at the (packed out) Vortex in an amazing quartet with Steve Beresford on piano, John Edwards on bass and Mark Sanders on drums. Spring Heel Jack (Ashley Wales and John Coxon) were in the audience, and there was talk of them appearing at the Vortex with Parker soon.

Two days later, I met Parker for this interview. We met in the cafe at Ray's Jazz shop, one of the best in London, which has recently relocated to Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross Road. This meant that music was playing over the sound system, some of which occasionally distracted Parker.

AAJ: I'd like to start off talking about the Spring Heel Jack tour, as it is comparatively recent. Talking to them at the Vortex the other evening, their reaction was that it had exceeded their wildest dreams.

EP: They are fantastically enthusiastic guys. They are definitely a breath of fresh air in their open mindedness and their voracious appetite for music of all kinds. It reminded in some quite fundamental way why I got involved in music myself. For such a long time it has just been what I do. It was nice to be reminded of that state of jumping around enthusiasm, and even to be infected by it to a degree. Plus they are very interesting characters apart from their relationship with music. They are great as individuals and then you put the two of them together, a quite unlikely pairing in many ways, and you get the synergy which is precisely what Buckminster Fuller says you should get. They are a nice illustration of that. It was a real pleasure to be with them for ten days, or whatever it was.

AAJ: How did that work out? Because it wasn't just them you were with?

EP: We had one day's rehearsal. And we had done the recordings [ Masses and Amassed ], although I don't think that impinged very much on the material we prepared for the tour—there may have been a couple of samples. It suited me very well, because in one rehearsal I could memorise everything I needed to know. So I didn't have to bother with music stands and bits of paper and all of that for the first few gigs or for the whole tour. Sometimes that is necessary because there is just too much to memorise. In this case there was a real minimal amount of fixed material and even what was fixed was open to fresh interpretation every night. Probably the one who freshly interpreted the most—as you might guess—was Han Bennink. He never takes a great deal of interest in what is supposed to be fixed and what is supposed to be free anyway, which is good because he knows his own temperament very well indeed. That one rehearsal didn't even last all day. We had set it for about ten or twelve hours but we just did a sensible minimum and went to Bath, the first concert, with just that edge you need of not being over-rehearsed. From there, we just consolidated the material each night. The Queen Elizabeth Hall was the second gig but everybody knew what were the things that were supposed to happen and what the degrees of flexibility of interpretation were. It was good in that way too.

AAJ: As far as your own playing was concerned, what were the constraints?

EP: There were certain key elements that could switch from one area to another or from one predominant player to another—I wouldn't really say soloist. Sometimes it was a bit like that, but they never really described anything as being a solo as such. There were different areas that were defined very simply ... [Parker slowly drifts into silence, distracted by the music coming over Ray's sound system.] (I'm listening to Coltrane. Not all the records they play will catch my attention so much as this one)... The first set had an opening clang, a sample from Ashley of some bells, something he had prepared as the opening of the set. Then a two-note guitar response that was repeated a few times. Then it was up to people to find their way into whatever that set up. Then a period of collective improvisation with the saxophone as a lead voice. After a good deal of playing, there was a transition to a piece with three chords that were given, that set up an almost kitsch mood. OK, now we all know where we are again. That was open for me to play around on those chords. The set finished with a figure that John played on the piano that was like a ballad feel. In rehearsal, I had worked out a kind of counter melody or response to that figure. So that was it. If you tried to write these things down, you would be struggling to fill more than about three lines. But because, from the rehearsal, we had a good sense of how that stuff would be used to generate and influence improvisations, there was no trouble making that into a set. It was all we needed.

Of course, I play a lot of times in other contexts where the only preparation is that we all know one another. It is so hard to talk about this stuff. You sort of contradict yourself whatever you try to say about free improvisation you turn out to be saying something that is true but also not true at the same time. It is very ...

AAJ: ... slippery, isn't it?

EP: "Slippery" is a good word. Yesterday I was using "minefield," which is perhaps overdramatic. I think "slippery" is good. It is a slippery beast. You try and grab it and whoops! It's gone. Like the fox in the Goethe story, Reinecke Fuchs, [translated as Reynard the Fox] who covers himself in grease at the end of the story, very slippery. We wanted to call a piece that with the Schlippenbach group. He changed it to "Fux" rather than "Fuchs Geffetet"—the fatted fox—because he thought it sounded too vulgar. ["Fux" is the last track on Elf Bagatellen (FMP CD 27) by Schlippenbach Trio.] It is a slippery beast, improvisation.

AAJ: Which isn't to say I won't keep probing you about it! But it is a good place to start, to recognise that it is slippery.

With the recording with Spring Heel Jack, one of the things they did was to have control over which bits they would pull out of the collective improvisation. There is one notable example ["Maroc" on Amassed ] where they just pulled you and Jason out.


EP: Well, they didn't have the complete separation to tracks. There was a lot of bleed through from one track to another, because we weren't recording one track at a time. I'm not sure of the technical circumstances, but there must have been enough separation (even though we weren't looking for complete separation) for them to have some rather radical control over what happened. In fact, Han is a good deal quieter in the mix than he was in the studio. That is very often the case with drummers. It is one of the ways you can domesticate music so that people can play it at home. The last thing people really want is Han Bennink in their living room. You know that, Han! [Laughs.]

AAJ: I was wondering how you felt about that process of manipulation. Going back fifteen years, it would have been anathema, wouldn't it? There was much more of a focus on the recording capturing as faithfully as possible what it had been like to be there. Did that shift start with Process and Reality ? The idea that it didn't have to be a faithful capture of the circumstances.

EP: I can't think of a prior example. It allows me to speak a little about Steve Lake who was always on the side of the music and loved the music but was always disappointed that we weren't braver in respect of studio technology. I think now he must be sitting there quietly saying, "Yes. I knew that they would have to deal with it eventually." But the truth is partly to do with defiance. "OK, we can't afford it so we'll pretend we don't want it anyway." That may have come into it. That may not be quite the whole story. But also sensible amounts of multi-track technology like 24-track are now affordable. It comes as the basic entry level for any halfway decent studio and is affordable in a way that it simply wasn't fifteen years ago. When the documentation, warts-and-all, this-I-how-it-was, of a gig has been done often enough then perhaps you do start to wonder what it would be like to overdub or edit. To be fair, there were people all along who were interested in that kind of thing. Tony Oxley was always very interested in the studio possibilities and, at the time, was given quite a hard time for that by the so-called purist elements. And I might have been one of them.

But when the stuff is there and you are at ease with the situation, which really means that you are no longer watching the clock like someone in the back of a London taxi—anyone who is not a millionaire in the back of a London taxi!—then ideas come and a use arises. So, yes, I think you are right to identify a change and that it is significant. And I hope that the studio possibilities and the creative interaction between improvising musicians and the studio has become another part of the story of improvisation. I like to think that when I am using that technology that I am using it as an improviser. I work very fast with the technology. That is not to say that I am a technological whiz, I'm not. I try to work with people who respond very quickly to my ideas, running back and forwards from the control room, if I'm involved in overdubbing. I'm learning how to work with that technology. The problem with building up lots of layers is if you are doing it with real-time playing rather than with Pro Tools, the possibility of moving samples around and not necessarily working for every bit of track that gets overdubbed. That is still a technology that is fairly new to me and one that I am quite unresolved about whether it will have beneficial effects for my way of making music.

But the old tape drop-in style of overdubs, gradually finding ways of avoiding stupid repetition, stupid hanging around, the best example of that would be the four-minute piece I did for the CCA four-by-four series of commissions, a couple of years ago. It will probably be a track on a Process and Reality type follow-up that is about three-quarters done. The process of overdubbing is still interesting to me.

AAJ: Just to finish that off, it seemed that fifteen years ago, it wasn't just the practicalities of what was available. It almost seemed like an ideological position.

EP: Yes. I think that would still be my approach to a live recording. I think so. I would want location recordings of a group to represent fairly strictly what happened on the gig. Even though you have the problem of which gig. Many gigs get recorded. Many recorded gigs get quietly slipped on the shelf and forgotten ...

AAJ: ... or edited down?

EP: Let me finish! [Laughs.] Even the ones that are issued are often edited. Maybe it starts with the rationalisation that you have two hours of music but only seventy-nine minutes of disc space, so which bits should you leave out? Of course, they are the bits that you think are not as good as the best bits. So that whole question of documentary purity starts to look very shaky anyway. It always did. There were always constraints. I have spoken before about the most radical edit of all being the edit of complete omission. You can join things up together, but at least you are admitting those things happened. When you record something and don't use it at all, then you are almost trying to say it didn't happen. Again, you see how slippery it is? You're not really doing that. You are just trying to make a record. And there is no intent to deceive. There is simply the best intention to work within the constraints of the process. That means making choices, post facto choices. But you are right to shine the light in these dusty corners. Let?s see what we can find there. Let's clarify a few things. But I am still pretty purist in that sense. If the thing is supposed to be a live recording, then I probably won't snip anything out, unless it is some preparation noises where somebody thought the piece had started and somebody else didn't, or there is just an obvious place, structurally, where one thing stops and another thing starts. So, for example, on Live at Les Instants Chevires, with the trio, there were two sets. And the option is to put out a double CD and include everything. But that everything was designed as two sets in a jazz club, not to be a CD. And anyway, there were one or two little technical problems and dropouts. But apart from that, it is just which bits do you chop, which do you leave out. I think that has always been true of even the purest documentary recording. Except, say, the direct to disc thing that I did, Monoceros, that wasn't a live recording. But, in effect, that is as close as you can get to making a live recording in a studio, playing straight to the cutting lathe. Even there, I recorded two sides and those were the two sides that came out. I could have carried on recording sides until I was happy and thrown away the sides I didn't like, and it still would have had the air of something absolutely unedited. But there would have been that fact of what happened to the stuff you didn't like. I don't know if it was stubbornness on my part to just do the two sides, so I could say, "Well, that's it. That is what I did. I played one side, had a break and then played the other side."

AAJ: Interestingly, that is a studio recording. You still seem to be prepared to make the distinction between purity in the live context and impurity (or whatever) in the studio context.

EP: Don't forget that you are talking about work over a span of over thirty years. At a certain point, I suppose you feel that nearly everybody knows pretty well what you stand for, and if there is too great a contradiction or fall from grace, then somebody will remind you of it pretty quickly. I hope I am making sense in terms of my own work, and in terms of trying to explain it.

[ Passage to Hades by Jah Wobble and Evan Parker is on the sound system.] This music in the background is an example of how complicated things can get. Jah Wobble's engineer, Cai Murphy, is a guy who goes for broke. Jah Wobble uses him on gigs and on recording, which is quite unusual. He is a phenomenal risk taker. Sometimes things can go completely mad, because he drives things so hard. But when it works, I think it is extraordinary. This record sounds to me like somebody spent five months in production. Actually, Cai works so quickly, he was almost itching to begin the post-production before we had finished playing. He was already playing us back stuff with bits of dub-type interactive engineering while we were supposed to be listening back to what we'd done. "Let me at it. Let me at it." This thing was worked at very quickly. He is an improvising engineer. He wants to get involved. He takes chances that sometimes produce howling feedback; everything has gone for a moment. But the payback when it works is extraordinary. There is a depth to the mix that is extraordinary for something that is done so quickly, so spontaneously.

AAJ: I want to talk at some length about Psi. Firstly, why was there so long between the end of your involvement with Incus and the start of Psi?

EP: There have been lots of things going on in my life, so some of it was to do with that. I started to make tapes and assemble ideas. I was thinking about it all the time as something I would have to do eventually. Once you have had that feeling of complete control, it is very hard to beat.

I have been extremely fortunate in the support I have had from Leo Feigin [of Leo Records], Martin Davidson [of Emanem Records], from FMP, from Okkadisk, from various labels. They have all been a delight to work with. I suppose it is a testament to the community around the music. You just don't find many people that are not a pleasure to work with. In the case of Martin and Leo, you are dealing with two guys who have been there effectively from the beginning. I knew and got on well with Leo for years before I recorded for him. And I was always in touch with Martin whether he was living in America or Australia. Wherever he was, we stayed in touch. In fact he helped organise the first solo tour I did in America, when he was living near Philadelphia. Martin has always been an excellent friend of the music and the musicians. Leo's impact worldwide has been very significant in making people in different parts of the planet aware of what is going on, making people in America hear Russian music, people in Russia hear American music.

Another thing about all these small companies is that they are all honest, and on the artists' side. And polite. If they reissue something, they send you a copy. Even if there is no money involved, they are polite enough to send you one, which major companies are extraordinarily inept about. When they reissue things, they don't let the sidemen have copies of anything. Very strange. The very people who could afford to, and have the administrative wherewithal to behave decently are the ones who don't, and the people who are really struggling, working fourteen hour days, have good manners.

So, eventually it became clear that Martin was ready to really be a partner. Effectively, Psi is a sub-label of Emanem. Although when things get that micro, I don?t know if it matters. I can do things that Martin would not do himself, such as the Gerd Dudek record. He likes it very much but he just says that it wouldn't be something that he would do because he is specialised. That is the same reason that FMP gave for not wanting to put that tape out. It has existed as a production for a while before I put it out. At one stage I was thinking of having two labels. One called Psi for the free stuff and one called Phi for the stuff that I love but was not especially close to what I am associated with myself personally. I will carry on doing those things. There are several more projects like that. It works fine for Martin this way, because it is not confusing the image of his label. It is a model of a good working relationship. He is fantastically equipped technically. He knows computers much better than I do. He knows the various ways of mastering, mixing, restoring old tapes. All these things he is very adept at. And he is very together on the logistics side of things, moving things around, numbers—just a perfect complement, all the things that I'm not much good at he is great at. Somehow we have worked out an understanding that makes sense to him. Notional profit sharing and that kind of thing.

AAJ: I was going to ask about the Dudek album. Of the seven releases on Psi so far, it is an obvious anomaly, not least because it is the only one that doesn't feature yourself, and it is more in the jazz tradition than one might expect. So you are saying that it is not going to be a one-off?

EP: Definitely not. I have got so much Kenny Wheeler material that sooner or later we will have to come to the end of the project [to make a CD that Kenny Wheeler is happy with] and we will have to put something out. And I have just embarked on what could be an even more complicated project, which is to make a Ray Warleigh record that he is happy with. We have quite a lot of stuff recorded already and we will probably need to go back into the studio and do a bit more. I don't play on it; I am just in the box, listening and trying to say some helpful things, making a fool of myself most of the time. The producer's role is a very difficult one.

I'd rather not speak about too many other things, but there is a whole chain of possibilities there. In fact, there's a trio with Kenny, Stan Sulzmann and John Parricelli that actually grew out of one of the Kenny recording dates, and they have done a record for another record label, in between. There are other things in discussion, but I don't want to say anything indiscrete.

AAJ: So far, there has been a balance between new stuff and reissues, particularly Incus stuff. Would the expectation be that eventually all of your old Incus stuff would come out on Psi?

EP: Yes. The place where I see massive potential for significant difference from the original is an obscure thing called Circadian Rhythms [This was originally released on LP as Incus 33. It was recorded in 1978 at the London Musicians? Collective and features Paul Lytton, David Toop, Max Eastly, Paul Burwell, Annabel Nicholson, Hugh Davies, Paul Lovens and Parker.] There is hours, hours, hours of material. Lots of it needs careful restoration because it was recorded at quite conservative levels, partly because the engineer kept falling asleep. But it is the kind of material that I think could repay some careful work with Pro Tools and a lot of re-editing. So I'm quite looking forward to that. But when will the time ever come up when I can do that? There is about thirteen hours of that.

AAJ: How much of that would you envisage emerging?

EP: Until I actually start to blow the dust off the boxes and to poke around, I can't say. But even if it were just transformed into one seventy-nine minute full-to-the-brim CD, it would be a very different experience in terms of coming closer to the feel of the original event than two twenty minute LP sides where you have to jump up and turn the thing over. But it could very well be two CDs. I don't know. It would be out on a limb somewhere. It wasn't the best selling Incus record of all time, by some margin. But I don't think it was quite the worst either. (I won't say what that was.) Yes, most of that will come out. When I left Incus, we agreed that my copyrights and recordings were mine to do what I like with, and that the projects that were neither Derek's nor mine would revert to the leaders of the dates, effectively as tapes that had been licensed to us.

So I am gradually reassembling a corpus of work. I like to do that. It seems a good time to be working on that kind of thing. And Psi is a perfect vehicle for that. And I must also do more recordings of the kind that people would expect me to do. I can say one because I'm going to talk to Martin about this later this afternoon. I would like to do a London Improvisers Orchestra improvisations-only record. That would probably be three or four improvisations from three or four different Sundays over the last three or however many years it is. They have all been recorded and I would like a CD that was just the pure improvisations. Martin might say that should be on Emanem or he might say, "OK." We'll see.

There are things like that. On down from there—starting at the big end of the scale, right down to solo projects of people I feel are more than ready for a solo record. I think this afternoon I might deliver enough material for a two CD set on the free zone at the Appleby festival last year with Sylvia Hallett, Philipp Wachsmann, Neil Metcalfe, John Rangecroft, Marcio Mattos, John Edwards, Mark Sanders and myself. That should be nice. Recorded by Chris Trent, the Sun Ra expert. That is pretty much ready to go. Then there is material from Japan, the tour I did there with Paul Lytton, Lawrence Casserley and Joel Ryan. All those concerts were recorded. Then there is a great quartet from a year later, also in Japan, with Otomo [Yoshihide], Sachiko M and Ichikawa Ko. I would like very much to bring one set of those two sets out. We did two sets at a place called Pit Inn in Shinjuku. The second set was about an hour long and I was very happy with that. I love the sound of the sho. Ichikawa Ko is an excellent exponent of that.

Then there is a bunch of studio trio things that Steve Beresford produced in the dark period between the end of Incus—the down period, as it were—that I recorded for myself with the intention of starting something, but they just languished for a bit. But they are good. What else? There is plenty of stuff, I can assure you, but of course, the stakes are higher now. For me, the things have to make a space for themselves. There has to be a need for them. Not just, "Well here's a tape so therefore there is a CD."

AAJ: I wanted to ask about that. You are infamous for the number of CDs you release. Does Psi come with a special seal of approval, what you see as the best available?

EP: People might make that assumption, but the fact is that you can make just as bad a mistake when you think you are doing absolutely the right thing as you can when you just make a mistake. These things take a little bit of time to shake down. There probably will be Psi records that, with the benefit of hindsight, you might say, "Well, there wasn't really a need for that because of X, Y or Z." But you go into a project with some sort of clear idea about why it makes sense.

AAJ: What about the name, Psi? You have made comments about the psi phenomenon and all of that. And about the golden ratio. Psi is a whole mass of things.

EP: Yes, yes. It is a core belief of mine that group improvisation works partly because there are intuitive and telepathic understandings between the players. At its best, there are psi phenomena at work. But then the other stuff—the ratios, the mathematical symbols—it makes a nice kind of feel. I am interested in all those things, and I wanted something different. That is why it's Psi.

AAJ: Could you say a bit more about the psi phenomena in group playing. I know that, at one level, it is not accessible to being talked about...

EP: You know that thing that people sometimes say, "That was so good, it could have been composed." Well I've given up saying "Thank you" to that now. My response to that is, "It was." "Composed" only means "put together." We put it together. It sounded put together; it was put together.

AAJ: Put together as we watched?

EP: Well, no. Yes and no. If all there was was the time that the performance had happened and the time in which it was perceived, on the clock, measuring about the same duration, you wouldn't make any sense of it and we wouldn't have been able to do it. The reason we were able to do it is that we carry a lot of information with us from other times and places, and so did you the listener. And the more you get into the music, the more specific that kind of knowledge you bring with you. And we play to that; of course we play to that. We play to the informed listener. We don't play to the person who's tumbled in for the first time. We're not looking to make it easy. There are plenty of people out there playing music like that. People who drift into these darker corners where we operate are interested in pulling people with them. We want listeners to do half the work. That is often used as a criticism of the music, but I think it's a fairly superficial criticism. I'm not sure what improvised music with a touch of popularism would sound like. Tricky?

AAJ: Does that notion of the psi phenomenon apply mainly to established groupings? Would it be more applicable to the trio with Barry Guy and Paul Lytton because you have a common history?

EP: I wouldn't say there was a hard and fast rule, but activity which is not rewarded—even if you are dealing behaviourist levels of psychology—or, in this case let's say rewarding, doesn't get reinforced. So there is probably a good reason why some groups stay together and some groups don't. Now, you're probably right in saying that intuitive or psi-like activities play a huge part in that reinforcement. The desire to carry on playing is to do, in a very simple way, with whether you feel an understanding with other people. Even at the conscious level, if you send out cues, you are looking for a response. You send it round the group, you send out a little signal. The other night, [at the Vortex] Mark especially was sending a lot of stuff across. It is almost like a secondary level of activity inside the music; there is the flow of the three-way or four-way thing, but inside that you can have one-on-one specific messages being sent. The direction changes. "If you listen to me saying this, we two can make those two come this way." That is not even especially at the psi level or even the unconscious level or the intuitive level. That is just about trust among the players, that everybody is intending well by what they do. That is another very important factor for me.

So there are a lot of layers of givens or what should be givens before you get to the really finest layers of intuition and psi. When those givens are there and the above-ground materials are clear, then it is almost as if you dug the soil, applied the compost, got the fertiliser in place, OK now something can really grow. Or in the old Arabic dictum, "Trust in God but first tether your camel." There is a lot of tethering of camels that needs to be done. Then having done that, you can trust in God. Allow those otherworldly functions to come in.

AAJ: When you are playing solo, you are not interacting with anyone else, but is there any sense of possession, of it being out of your hands?

EP: Absolutely. But if you start to talk like that, you get a very poor reputation. "God plays through me." That type of thing. Except, the fact is that if you are not in conscious control of what is going on and you don't have a plan that you follow, then there must be some explanation for why things happen the way they happen. And they must therefore be beyond your conscious decision-making. I think you can hear the switches. I have talked a lot about left and right brain levels of consciousness. I think they are important. Steve Lake talks about the higher magic sometimes not being there. I think what he means is that sometimes I don?t get from the left-brain to the right brain, probably. So you hear somebody working but that is about it on a duff night or in a duff room.

AAJ: While it was in progress, would you be conscious of it not getting to that level or would it be after you heard it back?

EP: By definition, if you are thinking that way, you are not in right brain. So, yes, there are times when you are thinking that. When you are more aware of that mantra—"Higher magic, where are you?" They are like prayers, prayers to be released from the burden of knowing what you are doing, in that critical way. Because it doesn't help to be critically aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It doesn't help. You have to get to a state where you are at one with the work, not judging it.

AAJ: When that happens, are you still in real time? Are you conscious of duration and so forth?

EP: (Laughs.) I used to be very good at duration but I've lost it a bit lately.

AAJ: The state you are talking about would seem to imply that you do go into a state beyond consciousness of real time.

EP: Except that there are little anchors, as it were, which, although the soul is suspended above the bed there is that silver thread that keeps it tied to the body. It is a bit like that in the playing. Certain things do remind you. One of them is the state of my bottom lip, which after a certain time will always need a bit of a break, especially in solo playing. And there seems to be another part of your brain that is simply watching. Not necessarily interfering but watching. And it knows its job is to say, "Time. Time, gentlemen." That is pretty much all it does. And it is all right if that is all it does. It just says, "Time up. Take a break." It is not really saying, "Oh this is going terribly. When the fuck is something going to happen? What is this shit about? How many times have you done this before? Are you still happy with this rubbish?" There is a guy that does that, but he is not terribly helpful. What you have to try and do is get him out of the way quite quickly.

AAJ: It sounds like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, with the demon on the shoulder?

EP: It's worse than that ... and funnier probably!

For access to a comprehensive Evan Parker discography, a biography plus MP3 sound samples, visit Peter Stubley's excellent website at: http://www.shef.ac.uk/misc/rec/ps/efi/mparker.html

The Dedication Orchestra—a 25-piece orchestra including Louis Moholo, Evan Parker, Lol Coxhill—play London QEH on March 20th, Brighton Dome on 21st, Basingstoke The Anvil on 22nd, Birmingham Adrian Boult Hall on 23rd, Kendal Brewery Arts Centre on 24th, and Poole Lighthouse on 27th.


Government risking huge unpopularity again

As if Tony Blair and his government were not already unpopular enough for supporting a war that few people in this country want, they risk alienating even more voters with their proposed changes to the licensing laws in England and Wales. Currently, a pub or restaurant does not need a license for two musicians to perform, only for three or more. This is widely known as the "two in a bar" rule. The Licensing Bill proposes to liberalise opening hours, but to make all music-making a licensable activity. So "two in the bar" would become "none in the bar." As this change will hit folk and jazz particularly hard, some readers may wish to protest. There is an online petition to the government at http://www.musiclovers.ukart.com/
As to the war, I leave you to protest in your own way.

Curator for Meltdown 2003 announced

The last Meltdown festival at the South Bank, curated by David Bowie, was one of 2002's big disappointments. Given his musical history, one might have expected Bowie to be adventurous and innovative in his programming. Instead, it came across as one long ego trip. Consequently, I am reluctant to hype this year's curator too much. However, the appointment of Lee Perry does show a pleasing sense of daring and adventure by the South Bank. Incidentally, Lee Perry plays at the Jazz Cafe from March 23rd to 26th.

Only Connect and Barbican Jazz seasons

The Barbican continues its imaginative programming of music, with its Only Connect and Barbican Jazz seasons both containing fascinating, boundary-blurring events.

March 21st and 22nd. Kronos Quartet. On 22nd, they give a European premiere to Terry Riley's Sun Rings, featuring sounds from space.

March 23rd. Guy Barker. Featuring music inspired by author Rob Ryan's book Underdogs and from Barker's album Soundtracks (Provocateur), which pays tribute to film noir.

March 24th. Wayne Shorter with his much-acclaimed acoustic quartet with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade.

April 6th. Conjure. Kip Hanrahan's unique ensemble including poet and writer Ishmael Reed, Taj Mahal and David Murray, from the 1984 recording.

April 21st and 22nd. The Film Music of Spike Lee and Terence Blanchard. Lee's films have powerful, noticeable music. Here various guests join Blanchard and his jazz ensemble, in an evening hosted by Lee.

Pinski Zoo are back

After a short tour last autumn, Pinski Zoo undertake a longer tour over the next couple of months, confirming that they are well and truly back. London Calling hopes to bring you an interview with Pinski Zoo leader Jan Kopinski soon.

March 12th. Midland Arts Centre, Canon Hill Park, Birmingham.
March 15th. The Lawn, Langworthgate, Lincoln.
March 22nd. The Hawth, Hawth Avenue, Crawley.
March 29th. The Shed, The Shed, Brawby, Malton, N.Yorkshire.
April 2nd. Susumi, The Wardwick, Derby
April 3rd. The Wardrobe, St Peter's Square, Leeds.
April 12th. Phoenix Arts Centre, Newarke Street, Leicester
April 29th. The Cluny, Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne.
May 2nd. Union Chapel London.
May 10th. Lighthouse, Kingland Road, Poole.


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